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Ida: "My%20Fair%2C%20My%20Dark%20EP"
Ida: "My%20Fair%2C%20My%20Dark%20EP" (Polyvinyl%2C%20Aug.%202008) 

Eigentlich nur ein Lovers Prayers-Nebenprodukt geplant, entwickelt sich diese 24-minütige 7-Exklusiv-Song-Kollektion in meinem Kopf immer mehr zu einer Essenz des Ida-Schaffens. Gelingt es den beiden in diesen während der Aufnahmen zum 2008er Album entstandenen, gemeinsam mit Gästen wie Michael Hurley, Tara Jane O’Neil und Levon Helm eingespielten Songs doch, auf zurückhaltende, unaufdringliche Art ihre ganzes Können, ihre ganze Stilvielfalt auf eine knappe halbe Stunde zu konzentrieren. In dieser findet man die Song-Vignette ebenso wie das improvisations-freudig fließende Late Blues, das reife Ida-Original neben der wohlgewählten Coverversion (John Martyn’s Road To Ruin, Dolly Parton’s Pain Of Loving You, Anne Briggs’ Time Has Come), die versponnen-verträumte, sanft-verführerische Lo-Fi-Kostbarkeit und die mehrstimig-harmonische, auf Mandoline, A-Gitarre und Ukulele vollendet dargereichte Bluegrass-/Folk-Reinheit. Selten hörte ich ein solch gelungenes Sieben-Song-Kunstwerk; dem Ida-Verehrer unbedingt zur Bereicherung empfohlen, dem Ida-Neuling zum unwiderstehlichen Sucht-Beginn ans Herz gelegt.


With Levon Helm climbing onboard for two songs, My Fair, My Dark serves as reminder of Ida's folksy, country-leaning tendencies. The seven-song EP isn't all twang, of course; "Don't Wreck It," "Still Life," and the title track stick to the hushed, intimate sounds that earned the band its sadcore tag. But My Fair, My Dark sounds best during the remaining numbers, which feature close harmonies and competent fretwork on an array of mandolins, acoustic guitars, and ukuleles. Perhaps the most notable track is "All the Pain," an old-timey Dolly Parton cover that allows Elizabeth Mitchell to sing her rustic heart out. Elsewhere, the group covers John Martyn's "Road to Ruin" and Annie Brigg's "The Time Has Come," the latter track featuring gorgeous coed vocals and Daniel Littleton's fingerpicked guitar. Ida's two original songs can't hold a candle to such covers, but that's far from disconcerting, given the quality of the band's own compositions on Lovers Prayers (which was recorded at the same time as this effort) and the exemplary musicianship displayed throughout.

(by Andrew Leahey, All Music Guide)

Ida was in the studio earlier this year working on Lovers Prayers, released in January on Polyvinyl, as well as a yet untitled opus with original folk freak Michael Hurley. Working on two albums at the same time obviously didn’t stifle their creativity, because this beautiful seven-song EP was cut during those same sessions. The exception is “Late Blues”, a live recording that features the Band’s Levon Helm providing sparse rhythmic accents that keep with Ida’s minimal approach. “Late Blues” is a stunning song that perfectly sums up the Ida ethos. The tender harmonies of Elizabeth Mitchell and Daniel Littleton are mixed so far up front they sound like an echo of your own thoughts, and the minimal instrumentation manages to be quiet and powerful at the same time. The song, the EP, and their entire body of work can be summed up in one of the song’s most striking images: “From the rooftop you can see the moonlight, high above the clouds / Just enough light to see your face…” That sense of luminous darkness suffuses the EP and most of their music, be it an original tune like “Still Life” or a cover of Dolly Parton’s “The Pain of Loving You.” The music, like the moonlight in the song, is so sparse as to be almost invisible, still it’s imbued with a restrained power that gets under your skin and into your heart like the memory of a lover’s whispered goodbye that jolts you out of your late night slumber.

Ida has been at it for 15 years, turning out one quiet, intense album after another, full of tunes that tend to explore the more problematic aspects of love and its discontents. They’ve bounced from indie to indie, with a brief flirtation with a major label, Capitol, that went nowhere, but did get them into the studio on the company’s dollar, the result being two LPs worth (Will You Find Me and The Braille Night) of master tapes that the band wrangled from Capitol’s hands. Band members have come and gone, but Mitchell and Littleton keep going, deepening their emotional and melodic intensity with each outing. They’ve been labeled slowcore and sadcore because of their measured tempos and heart wrenching harmonies, but despite its obvious folk, country, and pop antecedents, the music isn’t easily pigeonholed.

The EP opens with the title track, a David Schickele tune, introduced with a swelling cello/fiddle drone and a quiet acoustic guitar. The melancholy music is complemented by images that range from the violent, “My baby’s mind explodes”, to the gently intimate, “My baby strokes my feet.” The lover in question seems to be bipolar, if not tripolar, and the brief instrumental break, slide guitar, and what sounds like accordion, intensifies the song’s disquieting aura. “Don’t Wreck It”, a new original, has a hypnotic, three-note guitar hook, ominous cello, and subtle dub effects on the nominal brush and snare drum rhythm. Mitchell’s vocal is pleading and weary as she delivers the tag line while Littleton sings, “I’m wrong, and I know what it takes to make it right”, with a bemused tone that tells you he’s never going to make the effort. The piano solo here is so minimal it almost doesn’t exist, an echo of an empty night made even emptier by the absence of communication. John and Beverly Martyn’s “Road To Ruin” is a jaunty ode to insanity accompanied only by the rhythm of clapping hands and that invisible piano.

Levon Helm’s mandolin and Michael Hurley’s fiddle bring some down home spunk to Dolly Parton’s “The Pain of Loving You”, probably the most straightforward tune on the album. The razor sharp harmonies of Mitchell and Littleton are pure country, and Hurley’s dark fiddle intensifies the song’s message of ambivalent love. “Still Life”, the second new original, is another portrait of frustration and longing. “Still we are not touching”, the duo sings, over and over in the background, over another gorgeous, aching melody depicting two lovers sitting together, going nowhere as the night unfolds. “Time Has Come”, one of the best songs ever penned by mysterious British folksinger Anne Briggs, shows the power a simple lyric can have when wedded to a poignant melody. The band lays down an unsettling instrumental drone while Mitchell and Littleton break your heart with their harmonies. This EP isn’t exactly an upper, but if you like sitting alone in the dark ruminating on what might have been, it’ll make a perfect companion.

(by j. poet, crawdaddy)

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